Word on Health

Word on Mouth Cancer

Our grateful thanks to the the Oral Health Foundation for their contribution to to our radio report which you can hear again via the audio player at the bottom of this page. Thank you also to the NHS & the Oral Health Foundation for the information below.   

By spotting mouth cancer early, we have a much better chance of beating it.

With early diagnosis, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten – and that’s why knowing what to look out for is so important.

Sadly, far too many mouth cancers are not spotted early enough. Up to 90% of all mouth cancers are linked to lifestyle factors.

Symptoms can include:

  • a mouth ulcer in your mouth that lasts more than 3 weeks
  • a red or white patch inside your mouth
  • a lump inside your mouth or on your lip
  • pain inside your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty speaking or a hoarse (croaky) voice
  • a lump in your neck or throat
  • losing weight without trying

See a GP if:

  • you have an mouth ulcer that has lasted more than 3 weeks
  • you have a lump in your mouth, on your lip, on your neck or in your throat
  • you have a red or white patch in your mouth
  • you have pain in your mouth that's not going away
  • you're having difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • you have a hoarse (croaky) voice that does not go away
  • A dentist can also help with ulcers, lumps, patches or pain in your mouth.

Alongside helping to stop oral health problems like oral cancer, cavities, gum disease nad bad breath (halitosis), if an infection is present in your mouth, your bloodstream can carry the bacteria to other areas of your body, leading to other health concerns.  For example, research shows that gingivitis and periodontitis can contribute to certain health conditions, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Endocarditis (infection of your heart’s inner lining).
  • Pneumonia.
  • Pregnancy complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight.

Some studies have suggested that bad oral hygiene habits can lead to major diseases, including mouth cancer. Conversely, there are certain health conditions that can have a negative impact on your teeth and gums, including:

  • Diabetes.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.

 The most common signs of poor oral hygiene include:

  • Bleeding gums.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Chronic bad breath.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Gum recession.
  • Mouth sores that don’t go away.
  • Toothache.
  • Swelling of the jaw.
  • Gingivostomatitis, an infection of the mouth caused by certain bacteria or viruses.

Improving your oral hygiene.  Brush your teeth thoroughtly at least twice a day (especially at night) for 2 minutes using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. (Medium or hard bristles can damage your gums and tooth enamel.)

Replace your toothbrush or brush head every 90 days.   When you brush, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward your gums. This helps sweep away plaque and bacteria at the gum line. Be sure to brush all teeth surfaces, including the backs and sides.

Floss/interdental brush at least once daily. You can’t reach the spaces between your teeth with a usual toothbrush alone. To clean these areas, you need dental floss or an interdental brush. 

Brush your tongue. Your tongue holds bacteria like a sponge. Whenever you brush your teeth, don’t forget to brush your tongue. You can use your toothbrush for this purpose. Or, you can purchase a tongue scraper.

Use an antibacterial mouthwash every day (but not after brushing your teeth). 

Visit your dentist regularly. Routine dental exams and cleanings are essential for good oral health. Many people do well with six-month visits. But, if you’re prone to cavities, gum disease or other oral health problems, you may need more frequent appointments - you dentist will advise.

Avoid smoking and other tobacco products. Smoking is a leading cause of gum disease and oral cancer. It’s best to avoid these products altogether.

Mouth cancer, can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, and other sites located in the head and neck area. 

Oral and pharyngeal cancer is the sixth most common malignancy reported worldwide and one with high mortality ratios among all malignancies. As with most cancers, mouth and oropharyngeal cancers are more common in older people. There are very few cases in people under 50.  Every year in Europe, around 100,800 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and almost 40,000 die from the disease.

Although there have been significant improvements in chemotherapy and surgical techniques, the disease is often particularly challenging to treat since most patients present with advanced disease, have secondary tumours and suffer from other co-morbidities.

In the UK, the survival rate is just over 50%, despite treatment, and this is because of late detection. An increasing number of young people are being affected and 25% of the cases have no associated significant risk factors.

They are also more common in men than women.  But rates of these cancers in women have been increasing in recent years.  This is because women took up smoking in large numbers much later than men and we are only now seeing the effects. 

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.